by Noel Draper

This might sound a little unpatriotic but I am happy England have been knocked out of the European Championships. I am also happy that the two Ashleys decided not to hit the net from 12 yards and I am extremely happy that dear old Roy decided to park every bus he has ever been on in a bid to stop Italy scoring. Very happy.

There is a very good reason for my happiness and it is the fact that I can now watch the rest of the Championships without resorting to shouting, pacing the front room or turning the channels over. I won’t have to go for a “walk” or pop to the shops for something I don’t need let alone want and I definitely won’t have to sit in the kitchen with some headphones on whilst reading a book shooing away people asking stupid questions such as “are you not watching the game mate?”.

I am happy because I am the world’s worst football watcher on television if my team are involved.

Sure I start off glued to the television, nervously clutching my pint, but all it takes is one stray pass and I’m up and wandering. A pub near where I live has got four hanging baskets filled with beer mats of all shapes and sizes as though the locals play some sort of game to alleviate the boredom whilst popping out for a smoke. I know this because after 15 minutes of the F.A Cup semi final between Man City and Man Utd in 2011, I popped outside for a wander as I couldn’t watch my team’s most important game for years. I missed Yaya’s goal. I missed Scholes being sent off. I missed the final whistle. In short I missed everything. I did count a lot of beer mats though.

A pub in London where I attempted to watch the actual final against Stoke City had eight hanging baskets filled to the brim with exotic flowers. One of them had six different types of plants in it including three begonias. Or pansies. I didn’t and still don’t know. Once again I started with great intentions especially as the pub in question was the London City supporter’s watering hole of choice and would be filled to the rafters with ex-pat Blues. I mingled. I joined in with the singing. I laughed. I watched the kick off and then felt a sudden urge to look at hanging baskets. At the end of the game I was an emotional wreck. I cried. I sang. I cursed the pub for having the ridiculous idea of putting television screens outside but I still managed to count the bricks in the wall opposite. That round to me I think Mr Public House.

It has been the same story when England have been playing. Take the game against the French. I was fine right up until Lescott powered a header into the net. England then sat back so I went for a wander. Which reminds me, I really should suggest to the pub landlord that getting a few hanging baskets in might brighten the place up. And give me something to do. Consequently I didn’t watch any of the rest of England’s games. The Sweden match was due to a prior engagement but even then I resisted the urge to check my phone for updates. I completely missed the Ukraine game and only watched snippets of the Italy one. Deep down I knew that any hair I had left wouldn’t be around for long if I tuned in.

I do wonder why I am like this. Why this happens to me. I wonder if I am alone in not being able to watch my team on the television or if there are thousands like me, not watching important games, and hiding in beer gardens counting plants. I suspect I’m not judging by the amount that Sky and BT paid for the privilege to show Premier League games from 2013 onwards. Three billion pounds equates to a hell of a lot of armchair viewers some of whom won’t be actually watching.

It then dawned on me. I think I might have worked it out. Instead of ripping any body hair that comes to hand, instead of pacing up and down wearing the carpet out and instead of trying to turn into Alan Titchmarsh actually go to a game. A real live game. The television, and bizarrely, phone companies will still get their viewers. The clubs will still get their payments plus the added revenue that you will bring and you will never feel the need to discuss begonias on a football website ever again. Everybody, as they say, is a winner.

Oh, one last thing. 2319. Bricks in the wall. Trust me. Go to a live game.